It is with great joy that we learn that the Indian Railways has taken steps to win friends and influence people. Now, your thoughts will immediately turn to comfy coaches, clean rail tracks, spacious platforms and so on. All we can say is that you lack the imagination that our lads in the Rail Bhavan have. The Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) has decided that the way to the hearts of travellers is through their stomachs. And so, it has decided to set up multi-cuisine restaurants at several stations, New Delhi included, where you can get a real taste of train travel. The food will be from various Indian states.
We can just see the picture now. You are sitting in the salubrious confines of the multi-cuisine restaurant enjoying your appam and stew or your maccher jhol as the case may be, looking beatifically at the sight of your fellow countrymen relieving themselves on the tracks. You drink in the sight of tourists being harassed by touts, you observe passengers jostling with mountains of luggage to get a foot in through the train doors and see the weary catching 40 winks on the platform. Alongside, of course, will be assorted dogs, cats and rats and other forms of animal life ambling around on the platform. This may be enough to put you off your bisi bele baath but then most Indians are made of sturdier stuff.
What do you think the next step would be for those who are stirring things up at the IRCTC? May we recommend that they look into the food served up on trains, especially the long distance ones? Normally, it comprises of a few indistinguishable curries and carbs, all of which are gently slopped onto your lap by the less than hygienic attendant. Which explains why Indians travel on train with mountains of homemade food which, in true Indian style hospitality, they thrust on the unsuspecting co-traveller. Many will feel that this new move is putting the coach before the engine and that the railways ought to focus on the bread and butter issues like maintenance and hygiene before thinking of gourmet dining. But we feel that perhaps travellers need to be fortified with Hyderabadi biryani or a spot of mishti doi to prepare them for the great Indian railway journey.